I’m about to share my full travel details to Vietnam’s hidden gem. This is a detailed Ha Giang itinerary to see this fascinating place in five magical days.
Everyone knows and talks about Sapa and its beautiful nature, but not many know the beauty of Ha Giang.
Ha Giang is Vietnam’s most northern province known as Vietnam’s final frontier. It is one of the most striking places in Vietnam. This remote and mysterious province is a showcase of unbelievable mountain landscapes, limestone walls, roaring rivers, smiling people and hundreds of kids.
Ha Giang has been forgotten in time and just recently it has been slowly becoming popular among tourists. So, if you want to travel back in time, pack your stuff and arrive as soon as possible – before tourism leaves its scars. We spent 5 days on our motorbikes and completed a loop of more than 400 km.
It can be challenging to plan a trip independently to Ha Giang. Yet anything is WAY better than to explore Ha Giang on a soulless and rushed organized tour together with dozens of other travelers.
Arriving and renting a bike in Ha Giang
To get to Ha Giang we took a night bus from Hai Phong which cost us 250,000 vnđ and it took almost 11 hours. We arrived in Ha Giang around 5 am and since we knew we wanted to rent a bike from QT shop, we asked the bus driver to take us to QT hostel. As a customer, you get a free bed to rest in after the long journey. What a deal!
In the morning people from the hostel took us to the bike shop to choose our bikes. Prices start at 200.000VND per day for semi-automatic Honda Blade up to 900,000 vnđ for a dirt bike Honda XR. We chose our favourite Honda Blade and took off.
Officially, foreign travellers require a permit (300,000vnđ [$14]) to visit this area. However, I asked the guide and he told me it is not needed if I follow his route. During the whole trip, I wasn’t asked to show the permit on any occasion. It’s best to check with hotel staff in Ha Giang on the current requirements before you set out on the loop.
Day 1 Ha Giang to Du Gia Village
Travelling north about 30km out of Hà Giang town on road QL4C, we reached the gate of the Geopark (the area was designated a UNESCO Global Geo-Park – only the second in Southeast Asia – in 2011) and we entered a beautiful mountain pass with a poetic name the Heaven’s Gate Pass. Because of the typhoon, the weather was kind of rainy, but the mountains were misty, and I loved that!
After driving through Heaven’s Gate Pass we got into Quan Ba District and the town of Tam Son, surrounded by spectacular mountains and dozens of limestone ‘molehills’. Near the top of the pass, we found an information centre with a coffee shop, where we parked our bikes and climb the steps behind the café up to a small viewpoint to have a look at Fairy Bosom. Fairy Bosom is a unique landscape with two symmetrical smooth hills. They are so charming and balanced that locals started calling them Fairy Bosom and its name dates back to ancient times and it is associated with many legends.
In Tam Son town we had a simple lunch. Since it was rainy, and we were cold and hungry (we didn’t have breakfast), we ordered Pho Bo and fried chicken rice in one of the small restaurants by the main road. Full and happy we left Tam Son and started looking for a bridge to cross Yen Minh river to continue via DT181 road to Du Gia village.
On the way to Du Gia village, we saw many small villages surrounded by rice terraces. I felt like I’m travelling back in time. In these days, can you still imagine waking up with light, working the whole day to grow your food and take care of your animals to provide you eggs, milk, and meat? In the meanwhile, your kids walk a few kilometers (4-10km) to school (if they are lucky) or help around the household. Bigger kids take care of the small ones. Small kids were not wearing trousers, so they can pee or poo when they need to.
Old people work hard here – they probably work until they die. Houses designed in a way that animals and people live together in one house (animals on the ground floor and people live above them). Often you meet girls and women – from as young as 7 to as old as 80 – carrying heavy loads of hay, dry grass, and crops over their backs. The bodies of the older women have been permanently distorted, so that their backs are almost at right angles to their legs, even when walking unburdened.
I admire these people so much and I’m kinda envious of that connection they have with the animals and nature. It seems difficult to live that way, especially for us who are spoiled by living in the cities. But they all were smiling and happy. An unbelievable and eye-opening experience!
The road to Du Gia was a bit adventurous with bits of road missing due to landslides. People filled these missing bits with big rocks to not drive on mud, however, the rocks were tricky as well. The sun set and the clouds were really low (or we were really high) and we still had about an hour of the ride ahead of us. Luckily, the road was pretty new, so we really enjoyed this ride among cloudy mountains! It was so magical. I didn’t have my camera ready, so at least I captured it with my phone.
Finally, we arrived at Du Gia village and found our homestay. The owner offered us to join their family dinner and since few guests didn’t show up, we ate so much. The food was so good, and it cost us only 100.000VND ($4) per person. The accommodation was also really nice and cheap. One night was 70.000VND ($3) per person.
Day 2 – day in Du Gia village
We had 5 days for this trip and so we decided to stay in this village for another night. We stayed in QT Du Gia guest house. In the morning, we had pancakes and coffee and then we went for a walk to explore surrounding hills. On the way up, we met three boys who were on their way back home from school. They didn’t speak English, but we enjoyed each other’s company. We taught them how to whistle with a blade of grass and they taught us how to create a trumpet from one plant. In the end, we were surrounded by a big group of kids trying to whistle.
Day 3 Du Gia to Meo Vac and Dong Van (and amazing Ma Pi Leng Pass)
In the morning, we packed our stuff and continued to the famous Meo Vac and Dong Van area. The road to Meo Vac was unlike anything I’ve seen before. The road rose steeply, twisted and contorted up the hill. Once we arrived at the top the view was spectacular. We could see the meandering hills all around us. And this was just the beginning of the exhibition nature prepared for us.
Shortly after, yellow rice fields broke through the clouds. I was able to take only a few photos with my camera before the clouds covered the fields again. I waited few more minutes, but the clouds got only thicker and thicker. I was super lucky to capture at least these few!
After few kilometers, we noticed a huge mine. First, I didn’t notice but then Lee pointed out that he can see people working on its steep walls. They were H’mongs who were dressed in colourful traditional clothes. I wonder what they were mining for there. If you know, please let me know in comments below. I’m really curious
Saving the best for last, the epic mountains of Ma Pi Leng Pass which is the final stretch from Meo Vac to Dong Van. Treeless walls of limestone mountains raising hundreds of meters above the craterous Nho Que River valley – it was one of the best views in my life. So worth the trip up here for the views that you may only see once in a lifetime!! I was just blown away by the scenery and endless views of the landscapes.
The road from Meo Vac to Dong Van must be one of the most beautiful areas in SE Asia – the scenery changes constantly, and the hill-tribe villages are well worth spending a few days here. The only downside of recommending this place so highly is that one does not want to spoil it with hordes of tourists!
In the evening, we arrived at Dong Van where we spent the night at Da Nho Hotel (450.000 vnđ room/night). Finally, our own room with a hot shower!
Day 4 – Lung Cu, Yen Minh and down to Quan Ba
The next morning, we went to the most northern village of Vietnam called Lũng Cú, Vietnam’s North Pole. The ‘pole’ itself (entrance fee; 20,000vnđ [$1]) is a tower atop a small hill with excellent views across China from the top.
On the way back, we took a different route and when I thought I couldn’t be more amazed, we discovered another stunning place! If someone would have told me about this view I would have thought that it was from some fantasy novel or movie. So many hills everywhere! Also, so many kids – some going back home from school and some working. We met three girls carrying baskets with flowers – later that day we got to know that they make a special alcohol from it.
In the evening, we arrived at our hostel in a small village called Nam Dam in Quan Ba area. We stayed in Hong Thu homestay (night cost us 70.000 vnđ). It was one of the funniest evenings. The homestay is run by an older couple always smiling and dressed in traditional clothes. They cooked a delicious dinner for everybody and then they eat with us at the table (100.000 vnđ for dinner per person).
Dinner without drinking rice wine is not dinner in Vietnam. Soon they start pouring shots after shots. They always try to see if the tourist can keep up with them. It was so funny. Lee was competing with one man and I was competing with a girl of the same age as me. I had to always check whether she was pouring the same amount for herself. Many times, she tried to trick me, but I didn’t let her get away with it and in the end, she gave up. I felt a bit drunk and my face was super red, but within half an hour I felt okay again. Then others brought some alcohol with poppy heads in it – it was quite tasty. Later, they brought whiskey and started to sing. What a fun night!
Day 5 – Back to Ha Giang
Oh, day five – our last day. I wish we could stay longer. We had the last 50 km ahead of us, so we took a small detour to explore villages around Tam Son town. We followed the map we got from the bike rental shop but we missed our turn and got lost. Kids walking back home from school were laughing at us as we drove at least 3 times back and forth.
Finally, we found the turn Google was showing us – a small dirt trail going through the fields. OK, we were not going to go that way, and so we turned back again and found a different small road which took us back to the main road.
We stopped for lunch at a restaurant by the river and we were lucky to see two ladies washing strings (for clothes probably) with a bunch of naked kids running around them playing in the river. I really like to watch how things are being made.
In the afternoon we arrived in Ha Giang, returned our bikes, had dinner and waited for our night sleeping bus back to Hai Phong. Goodbye Ha Giang – you were truly amazing, and I hope to see you again!
The Extreme Ha Giang Loop as I called it was one of the best trips of my life! After living in Asia for four years, I was worried that this trip wouldn’t fascinate me so much anymore. But my expectations were even topped. This place is like no other – the unbelievable scenery combined with smiles of the local people makes it even more worthwhile. Also, in comparison to Sapa, this place is still not so frequented by tourists. My final piece of advice is to do this trip on a bike as there is no better way to explore all these places. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to ride a bike. It doesn’t take long to learn. In the worst case, you can have your own driver.
Where to stay in Ha Giang
I usually use Booking.com to find accommodations. It’s safe, easy and reliable. In this area, you can also use Airbnb or just follow the recommendation from the bike rental shop. We rented our bikes from QT and they told us exactly where we can stay in each place. All places were amazing.
We spent 5 days in Ha Giang province. When we arrive in the early morning we took another short nap in QT hostel (that is free if you rent a bike from them). Next two days we stayed in Du Gia village and stayed at QT Du Gia guest house (70.000 dong). When we arrived at Dong Van we stayed in Da Nho hotel. Our last night we spent in a small village Nam Dam in an amazing homestay Hong Thu. All places are included on my map.
Here you can find all details, which route we took, where we stayed and where I stopped to take photos.
Video from our trip
I’m not good at making videos, so this is just a short video from our phones.
If you have read till this point, thank you so much!!! You are amazing! Sorry, but I was just not able to write it shorter and I wasn’t able to select only 30 photos out of the total 723 either.